The Process of a Pattern: Working Through the Ugly

Art is a process. I try not to get discouraged or attached to the outcome, but sometimes it’s distressing when a painting is looking good, and I take it one step too far.

I was afraid I’d done just that when working on a lightning pattern. I had drawn the lightning shapes and painted them yellow, and then I added in a gray-blue background. The goal was to work fast because I was working on the pattern for #patternjanuary and the prompt for the day was “fast”. Once I had the background filled in, it felt a little flat to me, so I added some cloud shapes.

Lighting with Clouds

Uh oh. This is NOT what I was after. A little part of me was like, “well whatever, it doesn’t always have to be perfect.” Then another part of me chimed in, “what if you paint over it?” I wasn’t sure if it would work since it’s gouache which will re-wet, even on the paper, but I tried it. Happily, it worked! Not only did I paint over it, but because the gouache mixed on the paper, the background was actually better than that first flat layer.

Lightning Pattern

Look at all that foggy texture and dimension. I just love it!

This is such a great example of the unpredictable nature of the process of making art. There are times when everything goes perfectly from start to finish, there are times when the outcome is not so great, and then there are times when the going might be a little bumpy, but the outcome is a pleasant surprise.

Preparing for a Successful Creative Daily Challenge

It’s already day 2 of the #PatternJanuary challenge! I’m having so much fun seeing what everyone is posting. There’s a great variety of styles and subject matter already! If you’re just learning about this challenge, please feel free to join in at any time. You can catch up if you want to, but you don’t have to!

Day 1 - Happy and Day 2 - Forest #patternjanuary
Day 1 – Happy (left) and Day 2 – Forest (right)

A couple people voiced concern about being able to keep up with the challenge everyday. First of all, let me say that there is NO PRESSURE from me if you join Pattern January and don’t finish. I will consider it a great success if you post one pattern, or even if the challenge inspires you to do something different on your own!

If you’re still feeling a little uneasy, and not sure if a daily challenge is possible for you, check out the following tips to help you get into the right mindset to prepare for success in any creative ongoing challenge. (If you’re already feeling confident and ready to go, then by all means go for it and do your thang!)

1. Decide What You Have Time For

When I created daily patterns in 2013, I adjusted the challenge each month to a different medium, and my choice always depended on what I had time for. If I was traveling, I put together a simple travel kit that wouldn’t take up much space. When I was home and had a light work load, I had time for more in depth pursuits such as trying a new medium, or improving skills.

Look at your schedule for the month ahead and think about what you realistically have time for. If you have family visiting every weekend and big deadlines at work, it might be a good month to work in a small sketchbook with just a brush pen or two.

We all have especially busy months, but don’t automatically take the easy route! If your schedule is on the lighter side, that might be the time to commit to something more involved. In either case, carving out some creative time can be so rewarding–make it a priority.

2. Create Space

Before you get going on your challenge, set up a creative space in your life. It took me a while, but I discovered that it’s a lot easier to start creating every day when I’m not surrounded by teetering piles of paper and supplies.

Choose a physical area where you will work on the daily prompt. Take some time to clean up if need be, and set up your space in your studio, dining room table or even by the tv! Gather the supplies you want to work with and have everything ready to go ahead of time.

Also think about the space of time when you want start creating. If you can work on your daily challenge at around the same time everyday, that consistency will help you to achieve your goal. You could go as far as penciling it in your agenda or setting a reminder on your phone. And if you’re pressed for time during the month, set yourself a time limit!

Another way to think about creative space is the area you’ll be covering with your beautiful art. Depending on what medium you choose to work with, a 9″ x 12″ sketchbook can be a huge time commitment. Think about whether a smaller size, maybe 6″ x 8″ or even 3″ x 5″ would be more doable.

3. Keep It Simple

I started my first month of daily patterns in September 2012 with a set of 5 colored gel pens and a small handmade notebook. The materials were so easy and familiar, I enjoyed every minute of it! In November 2012 I continued with copic and prismacolor markers which were my go-to supplies for years before that. The familiarity of those simple tools made it so much easier to show up every day. After I got into the routine of creating, trying a new medium didn’t seem like such a hurdle, and by January 2013, I was eager to try carving stamps, which I’d never done before!

If the idea of working with a new medium is intimidating, Keep it simple and go with what you know. If you have a favorite brush pen, or if you’re crazy about watercolor, use those familiar tools to help you through the month.

4. Make the Challenge Your Own
(Take my advice! Or don’t!)

I’ve enjoyed several daily challenges hosted by others. The Doodle a Day Challenge by Rhianna Wurman and the Index Card a Day project (ICAD) by Tammy Garcia from Daisy Yellow Art come to mind. I was most successful when I set up my own parameters. I decided to forgo the optional prompts during ICAD, but had fun covering the cards with marker doodles and sharing it with the lively group. When I joined the Doodle a Day Challenge, I combined it with my own daily pattern project, using the prompts as a jumping off point.

Is there a way you can combine a challenge like Pattern January with something you are already learning or want to get better at? Do you want to draw patterns, but you’re not loving the prompts? Try instead to focus on a particular medium or type of pattern to explore for the month.

Feel free to adjust the challenge as needed! Even if you decide a particular challenge isn’t right for you, but it inspired you to come up with your own unique goals, that is also awesome!

5. Feeling Pressure? Adjust!

I’ve done a few challenges here and there where I got overwhelmed and quietly gave up. If I’d given myself permission to adjust as I went along instead of chucking the whole idea, who knows what I could have created?!

If you start a challenge and you get part way through and realize you’ve taken on too much, you are allowed to change the rules! If painting takes too long, switch it up to something faster like markers or color pencils. If posting every day is stressing you out, post every other day, or post a weekly recap. If creating every day is overwhelming, let yourself create every other day, or only during the week, or just on weekends. Go easy on yourself when you need to, and you’ll find that establishing a regular creative habit will be easy too!

6. Final Thoughts

Although it might seem like my tips have devolved into convincing you to do as little as possible, that is not my point, I promise! I want to get the idea across to you that you can make any creative challenge work for you, and I encourage you to do so! There are so many details that you can customize ahead of time, and then change along the way before you get to the point of calling it quits. I have to tell you, it feels amazing when you complete a creative goal (even a modified one!), so I highly recommend you make up your mind to create consistently on whatever level you choose!

Are you planning a creative challenge this year, either daily, weekly, or monthly? I’d love to know about it (whether you’re doing Pattern January with me or not!). If you have any tips for success in an ongoing creative commitment, please share your ideas as well! Thanks for stopping by!

Index Card a Day Challenge 2015

This year I participated in the Index Card a Day challenge during June and July for the 3rd year in a row. It was a lot of fun, as always.

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

This year I continued my surface and pattern design explorations and tried a new-to-me technique for the first time: gelatin printing!

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

I had fun embellishing the prints with paint markers and gelly rolls.

Not only did I print directly on some cards, I also cut up some gelatin prints and collaged them back together on index cards.

Index Card a Day

The most unexpected card was one where I tied knots with embroidery floss.

Index Card a Day

For the bulk of my cards I explored different ways of using paint markers and gelly rolls with lots of layering, mark making and varying texture.

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Painting Daily: 4x6x365

I just finished my first week of daily painting in 2015!

Day 1 | 4x6x365

My initial idea was to create a painting on 4×6 inch paper each day and call the project 4x6x365. After thinking about it, I adjusted my idea and thought it would be better to work a little larger on 6×8 inch paper. I sat down on January 1st with a few sheets of paper in various sizes, and I was surprised to find it challenging to “complete” a 6×8 painting, but I had several 4×6 paintings that looked finished to me. So I switched my challenge back to the 4×6 idea, and I’ve been going strong since.

Day 2 | 4x6x365

Day 3 | 4x6x365

I’ve already explored quite a few new tools and techniques. I worked with bristle brushes, a brayer, and palette knives. I painted opaquely and translucently. I did a lot of layering and lifting of colors, achieving subtle effects.

Day 4 | 4x6x365

I played around a bit with adding pencil marks after the painting part was finished. I like the level of interest it adds.

Day 5 | 4x6x365

I felt quite bold when I made the black swish in the above painting. I had the idea for it, and had to go for it!

Day 6 | 4x6x365

Day 7 | 4x6x365

After an initial touch of resistance and a feeling of overwhelm of what this project would look like for the whole year, I started this first week by giving myself permission to make anything I wanted. There’s a looseness and complexity from all the layers and brush textures that surprises me. It’s maybe not what I had in mind, but that’s really part of the fun!

Paintings on Paper from 2014

I’ve been cleaning up my studio in preparation for a new year of art making, and when I came across a stack of paintings that I’ve made throughout the year, I thought it would be fun to tape some of them them up on the wall and take a look.

A Selection of Paintings on Paper from throughout 2014

This group of art shows a variety of the different ideas and mediums I explored throughout the year. There was a lot of watercolor, paint pen, acrylic, gouache, pencil and markers. I worked on watercolor paper, loose printer paper, and even index cards.

Another Detail of Paintings from 2014 on Wall

There was a LOT of art that didn’t make it up on the wall: more art on loose paper, but also a ton of work in sketchbooks. In 2013 I filled 14 sketchbooks with artwork, and while I don’t have the final numbers for this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was close to that! My plan is to round them up, film some flip-throughs and put together a post about them soon.

I’m sure the sketchbookery will continue in 2015, but I also plan to do a lot more art out of my sketchbooks. I really want to focus on created finished works on paper, panel or canvas in the coming year.

Detail of Paintings from 2014 on Wall

To help with this goal, I’ve devised a daily challenge for myself. Basically I’ll be creating one painting for every day of the year! I’m still not 100% sure about all the details, but I think I’ll decide on a particular size somewhere between 4×6 and 6×8 and take it from there. More info on that project is coming soon.

Here’s to lots of creativity in the coming year!

Acrylic Painting in Layers and Thinking About a New Project for 2015

I recently got a great deal on some Golden acrylics, and I’ve been having fun trying them out.

I’d been working regularly with watercolor before getting these new paints, and switching between the two is always a bit of a challenge until I get the feel for it again.

When I got back into watercolor a few months ago, I found myself laying it on way too thick and wanting to layer it. Now that I’ve gotten used to watercolor, my initial acrylic efforts were getting kind of muddy until I “remembered” the magic of layering.

After a few layers of paint, I had a somewhat muddy dark gray surface with light speckles. I wasn’t too impressed at first, but coming back to my art table after a break and taking another look, the speckled surface reminded me of cactus prickles. I ran with the idea!

Close up of Cactus Painting

I drew the outline of the cactus shape (you can see pencil lines where the segments meet) on the page, and then painted around the edges with a layer of purple and then blue. For those two layers I thinned out the paint and painted it thickly in sections, then dabbed it off with a paper towel before it could completely dry. That technique allows you to see through to the speckled layer, as well as the lighter purple layer under the ultramarine blue. It also gives the piece the vibrant luminous color that it needed.

The final touch was adding red cactus blossoms here and there.

Not only was I trying out paint, but I was also trying out different sizes of paper. I’ve been contemplating another year-long daily project, and one of my thoughts was to work on a specific size of paper. This one is 5×7 which feels pretty good to me, but I’m also trying out 4×6 and 6×8.

Are you considering a year-long project for 2015? I’ve also been thinking about working with a time limit, or possibly working digitally, but I still haven’t decided. I would love to hear what you have planned for the new year!

Free Downloadable Print to Celebrate 21 Secrets: Create and be Happy

It’s time to celebrate! Monday I wrote about the very first class I’ll be teaching online, Passion for Patterns, as part of the 21 Secrets art journaling workshop. This will be a totally new endeavor for me, not to mention a milestone, so I’d like to do something special for everyone.

To share my enthusiasm for this new experience, I drew a festive pattern and added a phrase that sums up the tone of my workshop, and also kind of my life’s philosophy.

Create and be Happy

I would love to share with you a free printable version of this encouraging message!

All you have to do is:

  1. Visit the 21 Secrets Spring 2015 workshop page by clicking on this link and check out the workshop descriptions.
  2. Comment here with any class title other than mine that looks especially fun to you.
  3. Be sure to include your best email when you fill out the form and write your comment so I can send you your print.

Once I receive your comment, I’ll use the email you provided to send you a free digital copy of the “Create and be Happy” print.

Create and be Happy

The file you get will be high resolution and printable up to 5×7 inches, so it’ll be easy to pop into a standard size frame, or you can hang it up poster style like I did with a couple of pieces of washi tape. You could even paste it into your current sketchbook or art journal!

The email you provide when you fill out your comment will not be shared on this site at all. However, if you prefer, you can also email me directly if you’d rather not comment here or don’t want to leave your email with your comment. Email me at aisforanika@gmail.com, and I will happily send you a copy of the print.

Also to be clear, you do not have to sign up for the e-course in order to get this free print. I only ask that you go check out the 21 Secrets Spring 2015 class page, because it’s a great way to see the details of the class I’m teaching, plus, it’s a chance to browse all the classes and learn about 21 creative folks you might not be familiar with yet.

I hope you will enjoy this print and that it can add a bit of color and inspiration to your creative space!

I’m a 21 Secrets Teacher!

I’m so excited that I can finally tell you: I’m a 21 Secrets Teacher!

21 Secrets On Sale Now
Can you spot my pattern in the image above? Hint: it has a blue background!

If you’ve never heard of 21 Secrets, to sum it up, I’ll be one of 21 teachers sharing an art journaling “secret” in a big online group e-course. My part of the course will be a workshop called, “Passion for Patterns”. If you want to find out more, check out the details on the 21 Secrets website.

Registration starts today, although you’ll have to wait until April 1, 2015 to take Passion for Patterns, since that’s when the class actually starts.

If you think you might be interested in signing up for the course, I do want to let you know that during the pre-sale that starts today, they have some great deals going on. The first 150 people to sign up get the class for just $69 which is almost $30 off! The next 150 can get the class for $79, and the next $89, after which the full price is available at $98 which is still a steal at less than $5 per individual workshop!

I’ve been wanting to teach an online class for a while now, and I’m so happy to be able to make my debut alongside a wonderful group of fellow creatives.

I would love for you to check out the 21 Secrets workshop page and tell me what you think. My workshop is the very first one in the list (thanks to my name starting with A!), so it will be easy to find the description for Passion for Patterns. I have a lot of really fun plans for my class, and I’d be totally thrilled if you decide to take the workshops and have a 21 Secrets journey with me!

One more thing I want to be upfront about is that all the links that I’m sharing that go to the 21 Secrets page are affiliate links. If you use them when signing up, I really appreciate it since I get a percentage of the sale, which is how I get paid for my workshop! If you plan to register, I’d be very happy if you chose to use my link. 🙂

Inspired by Long Skinny Paper

My friend Liz Nugent recently gave me the coolest pad of paper. I just love it. The paper quality isn’t the best and there are lines across it (which I tend to avoid), but it sparked a bunch of creative ideas for both me and Liz because: It’s really long and skinny.

I couldn’t wait to let my mind wander and doodles some shapes.

Watercolor Doodles

Here are several drawings of dragons by Liz on the same paper:

Artwork by Liz Nugent

Aren’t they the cutest!? Here are some plants by Liz too:

Artwork by Liz Nugent

If you’re curious, the dimensions of the paper are 1.75″ x 11″. It’s amazing how such a simple change, like using an unusual sized paper can inspire so many new ideas. Now I’m thinking of all those scraps I’ve tossed over the years from cutting down paper. If only I’d known! I’ll certainly be keeping them in the future.

Liz is a wonderful illustrator who I’m honored to call a friend. If you want to check out more of her work, please visit Liz’s website or say hi to Liz on twitter!